Monday, June 28, 2010

What I Heard at the Vigil Tonight

The Gospel reading at the vigil tonight, the Festal Vigil for the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, was the last bit of the Gospel of John. And what I heard was Jesus asking Peter three times, "Do you love me?" And it occurred to me, "Three times. That's the same number of times Peter denied Jesus. Wow! Jesus just helped Peter repent. He perfectly met Peter's need. He does that for me, too." And what up to that point had been for me, at the end of a long hot day, a difficult service to pay attention to, became like heaven. Even now, after being home for a while, it seems like the words of that Gospel reading are glowing in my mind.

Also, if anyone from Ss. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Ben Lomand, California is reading this, Happy Feast Day! And thank you. Yours was the first Orthodox parish I ever attended. It was a vespers service and it began to answer all the questions that had been piling up for several years. Thank you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Memory

The other day my oldest son, Devon reminded me of the time I shot an oppossum. I had totally forgotten about it. But he was little then, maybe 4 or 5 years old and it stands out in his memory.

I was living with 3 other men (it was shortly after I divorced my 1st wife) in a big ranch house in Cupertino. I didn't care much for the house or the City of Cupertino (They wouldn't let me replace the lawn with a vegetable garden nor build a shooting range in the back yard) about the only things about the house I liked were the apricot tree in front yard and the fig tree in the backyard. And behind the back yard was open space: Hills coverd in grasses, scrub oaks, and bays. On Independence Day we would climb the hill behind the house and watch fireworks all over Silicon Valley.

Every morning I would walk out to the back yard and check on the figs. I would say to my self, "oooo that one is almost ripe. I'll pick it tomorrow." But when I would go back the next morning it would be gone. This happened several times. My boys, Billy and Devon said they weren't eating the figs so I knew it must be an animal. One morning I went outside with my SKS (I sold it to a guy in Texas when California outlwed my particular configuration.) before dawn and waited. It wasn't long before the varmint made his appearance. It was an opossum.

I had only owned that particular rifle for a few weeks and had not fired it before. I knew the ammunition it fired, the 7.62 X 39mm Warsaw Pact cartridge was a little more power than I needed to kill an oppossum. I could have used my little .380 calibre Spansih Foreign Legion pistol, but I am a very bad shot with a handgun. You know the saying about the broad side of a barn? That applies to all cases of me shooting a pistol. So I shot the oppossum with my rifle.

The result was more than I expected. When I hunted squirrels and rabbits with a .22 LR there was always a squirrel or rabbit body to recover. When I hunted wild pigs with a 12 gauge shotgun the pig didn't go to pieces when hit by the buck shot. But the opossum was torn in twain by the projectile from my rifle. It was shocking and untidy but after that I did get to enjoy the figs from the tree.

I had not remembered this event for years. Not until Devon reminded me had I given it any thought. But it was, at the time, kind of a big deal. (Angry housemates.) It makes me wonder what else I have forgotten.

Review: A Taste of Ancient Rome

Ilaria Giacosa (Translator: Anna Herklotz), A Taste of Ancient Rome (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 231 pages + illustrations, bibliography, and index. $29.95

Giacosa, a food-loving archaeologist from Switzerland, delights the reader with a zesty report from 1st century Roman kitchen. The food she describes is not the boiled grain of a soldier on campaign, nor is it the nearly unbelievable cuisine of the orgy (More candied flamingo tongue, anyone?). Rather, the food she describes is that Romans ate day in and day out, with maybe a couple of fancy meals on special occasions such as recipes from “business” occasions, when a patron would feed his clients, but those were not usually anything like Caligula’s orgies.

With plenty of quotes from the period, the book does more than just reveal to modern readers and eaters the culinary practices of the ancient Romans, it shows modern people how the ancient Romans lived. For example, this quote of Martial:

“Rise: Already the baker is selling breakfasts to the children
and the roosters crow everywhere with the first light of day.”

Here we learn that people of Rome were not just awake but out in the streets about their business at dawn; the bakers having risen even earlier to prepare their goods for their customers’ morning meals. But Martial is not alone in bearing witness to the diet and lifestyle of the Romans. Seneca, Cato, Apicius, Petronius, and Juvenal are all mined for gastronomic as well as agricultural insight: Olives were not merely grown, they had to be cured. Grapes were not merely harvested, they had to be crushed and turned into wine and vinegar. And we learn such fun trivia, via Pliny the Elder that foie gras (fat liver) was invented not by the French but by Italians, who force-fed figs to their geese. The livers were called by them, iucur ficatum, (figgy liver) a much more pleasing name than that chosen by the French.

Much is often made about the differences between ancient Romans and modern Americans. I recall hearing Donald Kagan say in a radio interview that a Roman statesman would consider the American constitution absurd and unworkable. (Why Kagan, a Greek specialist was commenting on the mind of a Roman statesman I do not know.) But Giacosa brings us a quote by Tacitus, describing the influence of Petronius, the taste maker of Nero’s Rome that indicates things might not be as different as Kagan said. Immediately, upon reading the description of Petronius’ personality and influence, the names of the taste-makers in my own San Francisco and Silicon Valley come to mind, as the description by Tacitus seems to fit them all to a T.

The glory of this book, which has a few minor type-setting errors, is the many sumptuous ancient Roman recipes. The recipes are easy to follow, are composed of ingredients available in any big city (or via mail order or the internet), and translated into modern measures. There is one problem however: Apples. Finding ancient varieties of apples, as far as I can tell, is impossible, and recipes that call for apples will be problematic. Figs, grapes, grains, and animals are all easy to find in forms not much changed from what was known in 1st century Rome. But Apples today are enormous and incomparably sweet to what the Romans knew.

A lesser glory of this book, perhaps a greater glory to an anthropologist, is the inclusion of modern versions of the ancient recipes. This handy inclusion not only makes for what are, generally, easier to make dishes, but are comforting in that they show the continuity of cultural memory in an age when things seem to change at the speed of light.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Athanasia, Basil Wenceslas, Anselm Samuel, and I arrived at home about 5 hours ago. Several days ago we departed on a northern heading. We traveled up the Juniperro Serra Highway from San Jose to San Francisco (I love all the Spanish names in California.), where we crossed to Golden Gate Bridge, motored through the Rainbow Tunnel, and continued north on the Redwood Highway.

When we got to Cloverdale, which is one of the Best Small Towns in America, we spent the night on the worst motel bed ever. The mattress kept slipping off the box springs. I'm not kidding. Other thanthat it wasa pleasant stay and a treat for the boys, who love motels. We woke up late and when we gotin the car we adjusted course to the northwest and drove through the Anderson Valley on State Road 128. We stopped at Booneville for breakfast/lunch and encountered many wanna-be Rastafarians who had descended on the little town for a Raggae festival at the Apple Show grounds. (I wonder how many of those kids knows Bob Marley turned away from Rastafarianism and died an Orthodox Christian.) After a pleasant and leisurely drive through the Hendy Redwods and along the Navarro River we reached the Pacific Ocean and turned north on the PCH.

Along the way we took a short detour at the Philo Apple Farm and took a walk around. We met a very big friendly dog that wrestled the boys to the ground and decided I was his best friend. We saw an interesting, and rustic (it was made from old barrel hoops) oil lamp chanelier that might have applicationin the Orthodox Church. I hada short conversation with the farmer about diesel engines. She says she would like to run hers on grease from resturaunts but there is a bio-diesel company in the county that has contracts with every single resturaunt along 128. He buys it all.

We reached Russian Gulch about 2 p.m on Saturday and began to unpack all our supplies. Athanasia noticed I forgot to pack some essential cooking items, such as a knife and tongs. So she ran into a market in Ft. Bragg to buy them. While she was gone I set up the tent and got the campsite organized. That's when I noticed I forgot to pack my sleeping bag. So, when Athanasia returned to the campsite it was my turn to go to Ft. Bragg.

That night we read to the boys, and I read much of one of my school books. It was cold and foggy. I was glad I had a sleeping bag.

Sunday morning we said morning prayers (The long ones from the Jordanville prayerbook) and were joined by a Polish Catholic man who was camping near us. After prayers we ate breakfast, cleaned up after breakfast, and then I went into Medocino to an internet cafe to do homework. (I wrote and submitted a review of this book for my Roman history class.) While I was doing homework Athanasia and the boys were at the beach at the mouth of the little river that runs trough the gulch.

While they were at the beach and I was in Mendocino doing homework, the rest of our pary arrived. My god daughters and their parents came to spend a couple of days with us. It was muchfun to get to spend so much time with them. Anselm and basil play well with them. That night, when everyone went to bed, I did more reading for school beside the fire, while Athanasia read Ozma of Oz to the boys in the tent. When she grew too tired I took over for her.

On Monday I slept in and did not get out of bed. I was whiped out from lack of sleep the night before. I had two large lattes while doing my school work at the internet caffe. Each of them had 4 shots of espresso. I keep forgetting that I am not 20 anymore and caffiene really does a number on me now. So, Sunday night was miserable for lack of sleep.

WHile I slept on Monday morning, everyone else went to Glass Beach at the north end of Ft. Bragg. They came back to camp with lots and lots of sea glass. My god daughters' father found a collection of tiny blue glass beads. In the afternoon, we walked up to the beach at the mouth of the gulch again. That night we made smores. Actually, I think we made smores every night.

Tuesday morning, we went to Potuguese Beach (AKA Driftwood Beach) at the bottom of the Medocino Headlands. We had a nice lunch on the beach and the kids all played among the giant driftwood logs. Many years ago, when I was 12 years old and my nephew, Daniel was 9 my parents took us to that beach and we erected a wall of logs. The boys and my god daughters were too small for that kind of exhausting work, but theyhadfun nonetheless. Except for when Basil was stung by a jellyfish. But it was a mild reaction, causing only a scream and a rash on his leg. He had me make the sghn of the Cross on it ("Heal me, Daddy!) and he was back to playing in no time at all.

My god daughters' and their parents left for home after lunch but Athanasia and the boys and I stayed there by the water for a while longer. Then we went back to the tent for our last night. More reading to the boys. Sweet sleep.

This morning we broke camp and I took my first shower since Cloverdale. The north coast does not ever suffer water shortages, thus the shower at Russian Gulch State Park was like a warm hurricane. There was no flow governor on the showerhead so the water shout out of it like nothing I've seen in years. It was wonderful. I was not alone in the shower, though. An ariolimax columbianus. But he/she didn't bother me and I didn't bother him/her.

We drove back the way we went, mostly. We stopped at the Floodgate, a really good Mexican place just northwest of Philo for lunch/breakfast, and we stopped in Boonville so Athanasia could buy a 6-pack of her favorite beer at the brewery.

We stopped at Cloverdale for fuel and coffee and got back onthe Redwood highway, headed south this time. But we didn't take it all the way in to San Francisco. On other drives along this stretch of 101 we had noticed a giant building off across the Alexander Valley (at the Geyeserville exit) and had been curious about it. So today, we decided to drive across the valley and find out what it was. It was a beautiful drive through Geyserville and all the small wineries, but we were very dissapointed when we ascended the hill and discovered that the huge building was just an Indian casino. We didn't bother getting out of the car. Instead, we drove down to Healdsburg and got back on the Redwood Highway there.

When we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge heading into The City the fog was comming in and we couldn't see the tops of the towers. The boys thought that was very cool. We took another detour from our route in San Francisco and and stopped at La Boulange in Cole Valley to get the boys a little treat. Then we just drove on home to San Jose, where I was greeted by a tennant with a leak in her kitchen drain.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Desecration and an Offering

This email from Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West, Locum Tenens of the Diocese of Alaska:

Dear Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy of the Diocese of the West:

In light of all that happened the day before yesterday in Anchorage, I have to share a little miracle of sorts. It was something small, but it brought a tiny ray of light into my day and restored my faith in the goodness of people.

I was sitting this afternoon at the airport waiting for a flight back to San Francisco. I will be serving for Fr. Kirill Hartman this weekend and next. I received a call on my cell from a priest in Anchorage and we spoke briefly about the break-in and desecration of the cathedral. It was a quiet conversation but it was apparently overheard by a gentleman sitting in the lounge. A few minutes after, as he was about to leave, he came over to me and asked if I were a priest. I indicated I was a bishop. He apologized for hearing part of my previous conversation, but he could not help but hear about the church and especially the burning of the Gospel Book. He then handed me a small roll of bills, $40 in all, smiled and turned to leave. I was stunned by the goodness of this one man. So, there are, in these dark days, still wonderful people who can appear as angels of light when we least expect it.

+Bishop Benjamin

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cast is off and other stuff

1. I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not but Basil Wenceslas broke his arm when he fell at a playground a few weeks a go. He's been a a cast since then. Today the cast cam off and he was allowed in the pool. He is so happy. I, too, am glad it came off. At least once ever other day he managed to hit me with it, always accidentally, and hurt me pretty badly usually.

2. We leave for a few days in Russian Gulch on Friday evening. It has become a family tradition. This will be our third time to go camping there.

3. I have to get two weeks worth of school work done before we leave on Friday.

4. Athanasia and I are thinking about starting our own property management firm. It isn't something either of us has wanted to do, but it seems to be the direction in which providence has taken us. We will talk about it some more when we are on vacation and will begin laying out the plan over the next few weeks.

5. Anselm Samuel begun Latin dance lessons last week. He has two hours of instruction each Thursday and practices at home. My main goal is for him to develop a sense of timing. I think that everything else he has been involved in, because it was performance oriented, was too much pressure for him. This is social dancing and he says it is fun. So far he has learned the basic step to Cha Cha Cha.

6. Devon Abram, my oldest son has changed his plan. He is no longer going to cooking school to be a baker but instead is enrolling in San Jose City College in a few days to study linguistics. He wants to be a language teacher.

Well, I think that's all. I have to work on a paper explaining the history and development of the Athenian constitution, actually, that isn't right. I have to finish the whole thing tonight. So, I'd better get to work now.


One thing I have encountered lately is having to deal with someone who hates me. There is no escaping having to deal with this person. It is a matter of duty, surely, but also of love. It is difficult but, I know, others have had to deal with similar circumstances. Anyway, one thing that amazes me is this persons belief that I think I am perfect. Far far from it.

One of the reasons I became Orthodox is because my lack of perfection. The odiousness of my many sins was too much for me to bear. I needed, and still need, constant rescue. Every day, morning and evening, Orthodox Christians acknowledge our multitudinous failings and ask for Divine help in doing better. All day long we pray "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Several times a day I need to stop everything I am doing and say...

"Lord our God, good and merciful, I acknowledge all my sins which I have committed every day of my life, in thought, word and deed; in body and soul alike. I am heartily sorry that I have ever offended thee, and I sincerely repent; with tears I humbly pray thee, O Lord: of thy mercy forgive me all my past transgressions and absolve me from them. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy Grace, to amend my way of life and to sin no more; that I may walk in the way of the righteous and offer praise and glory to the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

It seems like the older I get I remember more and more of my errors and transgressions from the past. I do not think I am perfect. I don't even think I am a relatively good man. Embarassingly enough, I know many pagans who are more virtuous than I am. But this person thinks I am arrogant in my supposed perfection, and it is an obstacle in our necessary relationship. I wish I knew what to do about it.

Clive and Me

C.S. Lewis smoked a pipe. That isn't why I smoke a pipe, but it makes me happy to know Lewis and I have that in common. One thingwe don't have in common, but I wish we did have in common is Holy Orthodoxy. (Well, I mean, as far as I know. After all, if he is in heaven he is, obviously, more Orthodox than I.) His books, especially the Chronicles of Narnia are, I think, a major reason why when I encountered the Orthodox Christian faith I knew it was true. Lewis had laid the foundation for Orthodoxy.

I suppose there are reasons he chose the Anglican Church over Orthodoxy but I don't know what they were. I suppose there might not have been much of an Orthodox community for him to join in Britain in those days. Perhaps, if there was one, it existed in something of an ethnic ghetto. I don't know. But from Christus Victor soteriology (There was substitutionary atonement in the book, too. I'm not denying it.) in in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to baptismal regeneration and Icons in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, to the power of asceticism in The Silver Chair, to a patristic uderstanding of Heven and Hell in The Last Battle I see the Orthodox Faith.

I know people have commented and made jokes about Wheaton College hosting the C.S. Lewis Center, since Lewis smoked and drank, but I am more surprised that they house the collection in light of his Orthodox-ish theology, which can not be squared with Wheaton's Zwinglian official beliefs. Who knows? Maybe, it is God's will that Lewis introduce Wheaton to Orthodoxy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Gods of Ancient Rome: A Book Review

Reviewed work: Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome: Religion in Everyday Life from Archaic to Imperial Times, p. i-v + 1-180+ illustrations, New York: Routledge, $95 hardcover

Beginning by quoting ancient sources, and readers who like many quotes will appreciate this volume, the author sets out to make his argument that the Romans were not religious in the same way modern people are religious. They did not love their gods. They did not get enthused about their religion. In short, they were almost like businessmen making a deal with their gods. Part of the reason for this lack of emotion on the part of worshipers seems to be that the worshipers didn't always know to whom they were praying, "whether thou be a god or goddess" and "unless you prefer some other name" often being part of the priests' prayers. As much as anything, Turcan explains Roman religion as being not much different from a Californian's behavior in small claims court: Wait your turn, be quiet, don't offend the judge, use the right words, and you'll get what you want. The citizen doesn't have to love the judge, doesn't have to think the judge's authority is legitimate, and doesn't have to think the judge is particularly wise. According to Turcan, the Romans' attitude toward the gods was, likewise, almost completely transactional and utilitarian. Thus, Turcan writes almost nothing of Roman theology (e.g. what the Romans believed about their gods), but deals almost entirely with Roman piety (e.g. how the Romans practiced their religion).

After laying the foundation of Roman practicality in religion, Turcan goes onto explain the pietistic actions of the Romans in three main spheres of life: The family, the countryside (after all, Rome was an agrarian society), and the state. Beginning with a brief naming of many of the gods and demons who look after or are concerned with various household items, such as plates, doors, and hand tools, the author continues his account of Roman household piety at the start of the day, when the master of the house rises and ponders his dreams to determine if one or anther of the gods might have spoken to him during the night. From that point the author follows the typical pious Roman though all of his daily rituals, which were many. An interesting connection Turcan makes is between the cult of the ancestors and the recitation of the Romulus myth by the mistress of the house. This serves as a springboard, not so much in the construction of the book, but in the mind of this reader, for the leap from a household piety to a state piety.

The Roman state religion, according to Turcan, is nothing less than an extension of the household religion, which is infused with the idea of duty. Many of the rituals and practices of the later state religion developed directly from private household religion. For example, the deification of dead emperors in Roman state religion can be seen as growing out of the Roman households' ancestor worship. Duty to dead ancestors was amplified to duty to dead emperors.

Finally, after dealing with the Romans' practice of their own indigenous religion, Turcan, who is a professor of Roman history at the Sorbonne, turns his attention to the Roman's practice of exotic religions from the east and south. He might have done a better job dealing with this aspect of the Roman religious experience, as his explanation for why many of the ordinarily punctilious Romans all but abandoned their traditional gods and cultic practices for foreign gods and cults, is not very convincing. But, answering the question "why?" is not something Turcan set out to do. This book is about "what", and Turcan acquits himself well in this regard.

If there is one problem with the book it is the sometimes unusual word choices, such as the use of the word "bigotry" when discussing Cicero's opinion of auguries, and unfortunate phrase constructions, such as "case of the sacred chickens", which distract the reader from the matter at hand. I don't know that blame for this problem can be laid at the author's feet though, since the original language of this book is French and the English translation was prepared by a bureaucrat in the French Ministry of Culture. Nevertheless, this is a very engaging book, with arguments constructed from primary sources and archaeological findings, there being just the right amount of quotes and photographs to support conclusions. While not every historian dealing with Rome will want this book, those who want to know how the Romans practiced their religion can do a lot worse than reading this book.

(Photo: Relief of the Roman goddess Vesta and her virgin priestesses, Palermo Mueum, Italy)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What I'm Going to Make as Soon as this Fast is Over

Okay, I understand the reason for this fast (After Pentecost the Apostles prepared for thier evangelistic missions. We do the same by fasting and praying.) but I'm really having trouble getting into it this year. All I can think about are lamb shanks. Usually, I braise them in a red wine reduction, but I think as soon as this fast is over (on the Feast of Ss. Peter & Paul, June 29) I am going to have to make...

Lamb Shanks with White Beans

For lamb shanks
4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped coarse
1 medium carrot, chopped coarse
1 celery rib, chopped coarse
8 garlic cloves, chopped coarse
3 1/2 cups Bordeaux or other full-bodied red wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 fresh thyme sprigs

For gremolata
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leafed)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
3 garlic cloves, minced

For beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, chopped fine
2 small carrots, chopped fine
2 celery ribs, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked white beans (preferably Great Northern or navy)
2 to 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 fresh tarragon sprigs

Make lamb shanks:
Pat lamb shanks dry and season with salt and pepper. In an 8-quart heavy flameproof casserole heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown lamb shanks well in batches, transferring to a plate as browned. To casserole add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and sauté until onion is softened. Add wine and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups. Return lamb shanks to casserole and stir in broth, tomato paste, and thyme. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer, covered, stirring and turning lamb shanks occasionally, 1 1/2 hours. Simmer mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 1 hour more, or until lamb shanks are tender.

Make the gremolata while lamb is cooking:
In a small bowl stir together gremolata ingredients.

Make beans while lamb is cooking:
In a saucepan heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring, 2 or 3 minutes, or until softened. Add beans, 2 cups broth, butter, and bay leaf and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and adding enough remaining broth to keep beans moist and to reach a creamy consistency, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and add half of gremolata and salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer lamb shanks to a plate and keep warm, covered with foil. Strain braising liquid through a sieve into a saucepan, discarding solids, and stir in butter and tarragon. Boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly. Strain sauce through sieve into a bowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Sprinkle lamb shanks with remaining gremolata and serve with beans and sauce.

(Although under U.S. law a recipe can not be copyrighted, I do want to mention that I got this recipe from Epicurious.)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A Birthday, Some Recipes, and New Tires

Last Saturday was my son Devon's 21st birthday. It was a tough one since the same week marked one year since the death of Billy, Devon's older brother and my oldest son. So, there was sadness and and happiness mingled together.

I planned a surprise party for Devon. He is part of a Bible study at at protestant church, so I got all those people to come. My brothers and my sister were there. Actually, my sister, because she lives in a very large house that was designed entertaining let us have the party at her house. Also, several of Devon's cousins were there. His fave cake is cheese cake so I had one of those made for him by Sugar, Butter, Flour.

Everyone brought the ingredients to make a cocktail for Devon to try. He tasted a Campari Cocktail (2 parts gin, 1 part Campari, shaken w/ ice, strained into cocktail glass, twist of lemon), a BBC, a brain hemorrhage, a watermelon collins, and some others. He especially liked my wife's Gin and Tonic made with Tanqueray and Fever Tree tonic water. Devon only tasted each drink and didn't finish any of them. Wise. All the recipes (Many of them were illustrated by the party attenders!) for the drinks he tasted, as well as happy birthday wishes from all the people celebrating with him were written in a commemorative book.

Today I bought new tires for the Cruiser. Michelin. I don't know why exactly, but all the people I know who are really into cars say the only tires worth having are French or Italian. The store I went to didn't sell Pirelli (which I had on the Acura Integra) so I went with French. But that's okay. Michelin is what I've always used on the Cruiser and it is used to those. It might not have reacted well to a change like that. You know, it's like serving Coke to a Pepsi drinker. Hmmm. Now that I think of it, maybe the reason Pirelli and Michelin are recommended has more to do with those calendars than with tire quality, after all, the people who swear by the tires are men. I mean, do BF Goodrich and Yokohama even have calendars? Let alone, world famous limited edition collector item calendars?

There is one thing I'm not sure about. I usually buy tires with 800 hardness ratings (When I had the Integra and regularly drove over 110 mph I used to care about speed and traction ratings, too. I don't worry about those with the Cruiser.) so I'll get 90,000 to 100,000 miles out of them before I need to replace them. Unfortunately, this store, the store with the best prices, only special-orders tires with hardness ratings up where I like them. So, because I am always pressed for time, and because I have a long road trip coming up soon, I got the off-the-shelf 740 rated tire. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts compared to the 800s I just got rid of.

For dinner tonight I made something my mother always called Summer Salad. I diced several tomatoes, two cucumbers, half a red onion and dressed it with mirin. Anselm Samuel and Basil Wenceslas didn't eat it (they hate onion) but Devon Abram had several servings. That made me happy. He isn't really used to the way we eat yet, especially during the fasts. I'm very glad to have made something he likes.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Stanley Tucci's Wardrobe

I have seen four great movies about food. Two of them brought tears to my eyes. It is true that both of those films starred Stanley Tucci wearing beautiful clothes, but the clothes are not what brought tears to my eyes. If you have an opportunity to see Julie & Julia or Big Night, I implore you, do not let the opportunity pass you by. Each film deals truthfully and elegantly with food. Each film portrays some of the beauties of a past era. Neither is to be missed. Aside from the food and atmosphere, each of these films featured 1950s men's clothing worn by Stanley Tucci. If I were ever to open a haberdashery I think I should only sell clothes of that period and call the shop Stanley Tucci's Wardrobe.

The B (Women and Children in Greek Antiquity)

I got a B. I hate getting a B. Not as much as I loathe an A minus, but I hate it. Regardless of how much I hate it that is the grade the paper received. (Thankfully it is only worth 4% of my final grade.) Below, you will find the paper that earned the B. When I wrote it I thought it was an A paper. Now, having read it over and over again, I see why it is only a B paper. I wish this blog program would let me import the Word document as I typed it, for the footnotes are a work of beauty. They do not appear in this format.


Women and Children in Greek Antiquity

Billy Matthew Karnes

Prof. Stanley Carpenter
American Military University
HIST531 K001 Spr 10

It is impossible to say what the condition of women and children was in Greek antiquity without specifying which women and which children. The conditions of Spartan mothers were very different from the conditions of Corinthian prostitutes, or Athenian merchant women. Likewise, the living conditions of pre-pubescent boys were different from those of pre-pubescent girls. This paper will examine lives lead by women and children in various circumstances.

The first peril a child in ancient Greek society had to face was the risk of exposure. The kyrios of every household had the absolute right to decide whether or not to let a babe live or to expose it. It is not known what percentage of babies were exposed, but there is evidence to suggest more girl babies than boy babies met that pitiful end.

If a child did survive past infancy it was soon segregated according to sex. In cities other than Sparta, girls, at least free-born daughters of citizens, destined for marriage in the upper classes, would be taught household tasks in the gynaikonitis, out of which they emerged only infrequently. The work skills - let there be no mistake about it, every woman in ancient Greek society worked - taught to young girls were the same as those employed by her mother: carding wool, spinning and dying yarn, weaving, making clothes, cooking, and managing slaves. They would also be taught to read and do basic math. These skills were taught to upper class girls to make them a attractive brides, and help their fathers form or strengthen alliances with other upper class men. In most of Greek society, girlhood ended at or shortly after menarche when girls were married and assumed the role of oikodespoina , which, being translated, is mistress-of-the-house.

There was one outlet for girls of the gynaikonitis, however. Girls were allowed to serve as kanepharos, basket-bearers during religious ceremonies and processions , offer libations , and carry the sacrificial knife. In Athens, exceptionally "well-born" girls were granted the honor of grinding the grain for sacrifices and serving in the temples of Athena and Artimis. Poor girls who did not become prostitutes learned a trade or how to read that they might help their parents in their work.

Greek boys, except for in Sparta where the law protected boys from pederasts, were buggered by men and this was thought of as beneficial. Other than that, Greek boys, at least, all sons of citizens were taught to read and work. They were also taught how to fight to defend the polis. Boys from less well off families were taught to work in their parents trade.

The state of women in Greek society was not very good, and women, even citizen-born wives of the social elite were thought of as little better than slaves, who's entire worth was found in their sex. Demosthenes, the prosecutor of Neaira made this clear when he said "We have hetairai for our pleasure, pallaki for the daily care of our bodies, and wives for legitimate children." Additionally, available to men there were pornai and flute girls, lower class prostitutes than the pallaki, who can be thought of as concubines or kept women.

Some Greek women were religious prostitutes. At Corinth in 446 B.C. Xenephon dedicated 100 girls to prostitute in the temple of Aphrodite. But it would be a great mistake to think only young girls and prostitutes were engaged in religious work. Women served as priestesses in temples and had exclusive control over the messages of the Oracle of Delphi.

Other Greek women were not elite ladies living in the gynaikonitis, nor prostitutes of whatever class entertaining men, nor priestesses of the gods and goddesses. Rather, they did physical work outside the home. Evidence of this is found on grave markers, some of which from the 4th century B.C. read as follows:

midwife and
lies here.

This is the tomb
of the immigrant
daughter, Melitta,
a nurse.

Mania, the grocer
whose shop is near
the spring.

Additionally, many freed female slaves left records of their occupations. They included sesame seed seller, grocer, harpist, perfume seller, woolworker, and wet nurse. Though there is not much evidence for it or against it, in the countryside women must have been engaged in agricultural work since it is the universal pattern that farm wives help their husbands.

Sparta was an exception. There women, the highest to the lowest did all manner of work, though their most important work was birthing children for the polis. Their preparation for this work began in childhood when they were strengthened and toughened up by strenuous physical activity. Spartan women also mated (married seems to be the wrong word to describe what Spartans did) later than other Greek women. Whereas the women of Athens and Corinth and the other poleis were married shortly after menarche and immediately began trying to conceive sons, even though such early first pregnancies were detrimental to their health and decreased the likelihood of a successful pregnancy and delivery ; the women of Sparta married after they were fully mature and more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Finally, though most Greek women died at about the age of thirty-five after giving birth to an average of ten children and watching six of them die , some did live past the child-bearing years. This enabled them to serve as certain types of priestesses, and also, especially if they were widows, opened up more of the public sphere to them, as they became managers of the family oikos.

In conclusion, life for ancient Greek children and women was short and full of hardship.


Demand, N., Birth, Death, and Motherhood in Classical Greece (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994)

Dillon, M., Girls and Women in Classical Greek Religion (New York & London: Routledge, 2002)

Guhl E. & Koner, W., Everyday Life of the Greeks and Romans (New York: Crescent Books, 1989)

Ide, A., Women in Greek Civilization Before 100 B.C. (Mesquite, Texas: Ide House, 1983)

Martin, T., Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1996)

Massey, M., Women in Ancient Greece and Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)

Plutarch, On Sparta (New York: Penguin Classics, 2005)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Applicable Fiction

√Čothain: "Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?"
Aragorn: "A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!"